Usage of は

Hello! I’m just starting to learn Japanese grammar and I have a basic question about は. Below are two phrases I found in Genki 1. The first one has は after 今日 and the second one doesn’t. Why is it appropriate to use は after 今日 in the first phrase and not the second?

Also, how would I say “Today I’m studying Japanese”?



When you say 今日、you really don’t need to explicitly say the は.
But, in general, and in your sentence, where you use は changes the topic you’re focusing on.
So, today I will eat lunch around 1:00. Perhaps you eat lunch at a different time usually.
Or, today I won’t go to school. Perhaps you’re talking to other people who will.

Sort of?


Both seem fine to me, tbh.
Although, they’re “today I will study Japanese” or “today I’m going to study Japanese”, not necessarily “today (right now) I’m studying Japanese”
That would be, “今日、日本語を勉強しています.”
Although it sounds a little weird with the 今日 :stuck_out_tongue:


It depends on what you want to talk about. Do you want to talk about your day, like for example, “Today I study Japanese. Then I’ll go to the park. And then I’ll eat supper. It’s going to be a great day.” Then it would be the first since “today” is your topic.

Or are you talking about yourself as in, “Today I study Japanese. I like to study every day because I love Japanese very much.” Then you’re the topic is “I” and you would use the second with the implied 私は.

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は marks a topic, in the most fundamental usage of it. So in one case 今日 is the topic of the sentence. In the other, it’s just a relative time indicator.

I would say, in general, resist the urge to assume that differences in two sentences are based on something being necessary or unnecessary. You can phrase things in various ways without it meaning that other ways would be inappropriate. It may actually be the case sometimes, but starting from that assumption can be restricting.


Thanks for the response! I didn’t realize the addition of は simply changed the topic of the sentence, I wasn’t sure if there was another grammar rule I was missing. I’ll make sure to keep a more open mind when I find differences in similarly worded sentences


I’ve been using HelloTalk a lot recently and a lot have people have corrected this for me. When ever today is the topic, like “Today was good/今日はよかったです,” you use the は particle. I’ve found if you can say, “today is_____,” then you should use the は particle. That’s at least what I’ve run into so far.

は also has a contrastive aspect to it, so when you say 今日は日本語を勉強します, it might mean that you usually don’t, or that you managed to study despite factors X/Y/Z. Kind of, “[as opposed to normally], today I studied Japanese”.

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Is it correct to say that you wouldn’t have two は in the same sentence?

So in the second example, 私は今日学校に行きません。there’s already a は, so it wouldn’t sound natural to have another は after 今日.

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That was my first thought too, but I remembered there were situations where you can use two はs, even though it’s only in limited situations. See the following post from stack exchange:


Nice link, thanks for sharing!

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